FiringSquad: Hi Abbie, could you tell us about StarForce the company? When was it founded, and how did the company get the idea to develop driver-level copy protection?
Abbie Sommer: StarForce was founded in 1998. Complete story about the company can be found here: http://www.star-force.com/index.phtml?category=8&type=5. The development team and parent company is based in Moscow. We have offices in Beijing China and in San Francisco California, as well as representatives stationed all over the world. If you have specific questions, please ask.
About drivers, the technology built into StarForce to prevent reverse engineering and anti-emulation has been around since the beginning, installing drivers is part of the technology. StarForce has many different products that can be configured in different ways. It is up to the publisher to choose a configuration with or without drivers depending on the level of protection he prefers.
FiringSquad: What advantages does a driver-level copy protection utility offer over other methods of copy protection?
Abbie Sommer: The drivers are what prevents the use of kernel debugger utilities such as SoftICE, Cool Debugger, Soft Snoop etc. Also the drivers prevent emulators from spoofing a drive, and thwart burning tools such as Alcohol 120%. StarForce implementation requires no physical modification of the disc, or the equipment that molds the discs, so this method is a clear advantage to publishers because it gives them the flexibility to use just about any plant they wish. This is a limitation of some of our competitors’ products, which require not only special hardware, but also expensive software add-ons for test and diagnostic equipment.
FiringSquad: How is StarForce more effective than some of your competitors, and what does it do to remain effective?
Abbie Sommer: We are more effective because it is harder for crackers to reverse engineer StarForce protected games. We have a proven track record of games that have been on the market and still not cracked. If the most advanced features of our system have been used it takes a lot of a cracker’s time to churn out that crack. Plus some of the cracks are so big, very few will bother to go through the pain to get them to work, e.g. would you want to sit through a 500 mb download and have to sort out thousands of files? To remain effective, we constantly monitor the crack sites and when a game is cracked we study it and modify our code if needed, small fixes are often done weekly and major fixes perhaps monthly. It depends on the circumstances.